Charleston Getting Smarter, Less Self Aware

It looks like there's a reason for the robust market for the $12 artisan cocktail and $18 lunch.  More than half of all new Charleston County residents over 25 have bachelor's or post-graduate degrees.  Furthermore, more of those without college degrees are moving out of the county.  This according to the latest census data covering 2007-2011, which shows that more than 38% of all Charleston County residents over 25 now have college degrees, well above the national average of 28.5% and state average of below 25%.  We hope that this trend of a better educated populace will continue to strengthen the local public schools which, while better, have plenty of room for improvement.  And if some enterprising chef still has the capacity for making a quality $5 sandwich, they will always find a taker right here. Here's the Post and Courier story from this morning with the statistics and more detail .

Something else I've noticed lately: it seems like people more disconnected from the condition of Charleston being a real place, with the potential for actual "danger" and "harm" for those not paying attention.  From tourists backing into the street with their cameras and without looking at all for oncoming cars, to coeds walking on the sidewalks between houses in their nighties, its getting kind of surreal.

Last week, I made a brief visit to an all-but-completed project in the Eastside neighborhood to look at an issue with the siding installation.  I was on my bicycle, and pulled in past a car parked in the driveway.  So, I'm inbound of the car from the street, straddling my bike in the middle of the driveway, looking up at the house.  It is a classic Charleston Single with side porches. Out comes a new resident of a second floor apartment onto the porch.  He doesn't look around or down, and I didn't want him to be startled by a stranger in the driveway, so I'm looking at him waiting for him to notice me so that I offer a wave of acknowledgement and let him know why I was there.  He cruises across the porch and down the exterior stair, sort of walking down and away from me.  Then, he unlocks and climbs in his car, door still open, sitting down and facing my direction.

He sits there for maybe 15 seconds fiddling with his phone, facing toward me, as I'm still straddling my bike in the middle of his driveway.  He never looks up. Then he gets out of the car, closes the door, and dashes up the stair, heading generally toward me.  The stair has an open railing and open risers, so you can see through it toward the back of the lot, where I'm standing. He reaches the porch, then walks across the porch not 12 feet away, right past me.  In the house he goes, and never notices me once.  I could have been standing there stark naked with an ax on my shoulder and it wouldn't have made any difference.

What happened to the basic awareness of your surroundings?  Shouldn't your "spidey sense" kick in at some point?  It is so interesting to me that we can be so up in our heads that we lose the basic connection with our surroundings.  But, hey, at least we're getting smarter, Charleston!

South of Broad Renovation

18th Century residence cum atelier before reimagination. We're excited about the opportunity to redesign a rare Charleston property in the old and historic district. An existing 18th Century structure will be a lynchpin in the commission. I spent a while down there today crawling around the structure, which had just has its spent and failing plaster and lathe removed from the ceilings.  A little worse and a little better than expected, depending on the particular location. Constructed as a residence, this building served for a lengthy period as a blacksmith shop before reverting to residential in the 20th century. An out-sized fireplace is a clear vestige of its industrial period.

Through a partition in the 18th C. Charleston structure

Stair in 19th C. Charleston structure

Second level room, with framing dating from 19th C.

Wadmalaw Island Commission Nears Groundbreaking

New design for Wadmalaw Island Residence. Rendering: Harrison Wallace We are developing the final details and advancing the structural design integration for a new residence. This 3,500 sf home is designed for a 4 acre site on Wadmalaw Island near Leadenwah Creek.

New design for Wadmalaw Island residence, from west in the morning. Rendering: Harrison Wallace

Basic floor plan section at first floor of main structure.

Composite with model placed within the 4 acre site. Rendering: Harrison Wallace

Digging in on Cannon Street

68 Cannon Street from the rear, with new basement and foundation in progress. A few weeks ago, I was asked to lunch by the tenant that recently moved into the extra apartment in our Hampton Park Terrace house.  He's an equities trader and does some real estate development on the side. Great guy, and very smart.

We met at Five Loaves at Cannon and Coming Streets, then walked down to see a couple of properties that he owns. One Charleston single house, just to the east, was perfectly standard stuff for Cannonborough: a typical college rental house. Back to the west we walked to see his other property.  I was sort of walking with my head down or looking to the front as we chatted.  Then he stopped and said "This is it."  I looked to the left, and said "This one?"  No, over there.

68 Cannon Street, front porch area.

I looked to the right and across the street.  "Whoa! Holy sh*t!"

A relatively large wood framed house was up on timber cribbing over a huge excavation.  Within the hole, the form work for the cast-in-place concrete walls of a basement was in place, ready to be poured shortly thereafter.  I had never seen anything like this done in Charleston, and was naturally very curious about it.

Historic fabric meets modern technology in a match made by the market.

It is an interesting story that takes place at the confluence of historic preservation ordinances, zoning regulations, flood zone restrictions, and an expanding real estate market.

In brief, the builder/developers purchased a couple of adjacent properties: 68 and 70 Cannon Street, which collectively had 3 historic structures. Some combination of the Charleston Board of Architectural Review and Board of Zoning Appeals denied applications to add onto the residences conventionally for greater rental capacity that the owners desired. But it just so happened that the flood zone boundary ("A-Zone" to "X-Zone") crossed right at the front of the properties. The front of 68 Cannon sat about 2' into the A-Zone, with the balance in the more favorable X-Zone.  If they could move the structure back a couple of feet, they would no longer be under strict flood regulations.

Being out of flood restrictions that would prevent a basement meant that they would be able to create a basement if they wished, and were able to achieve their expanded rental capacity that way. The need to completely rebuild the crumbling foundations anyway meant that the cost difference to go with the basement was decreased.  Cost analyses yielded a return on investment that made a great deal of sense.  So a basement they dug.

A deep drainage system ties into two pumps with the aim of keeping the site from flooding.

What about the practical considerations of flooding in the basement of a Charleston residence? Wary and prepared for this, the developers engineered, and then expanded, a deep sump system to drain the site of rising water in perpetuity.  An extremely wet summer was not enough to overwhelm their system, so they feel confident in the ability for the drainage system to keep up.

Very interesting stuff, and a definite harbinger of things to come for the Charleston real estate market.  We may not have a lot more basements built, but the idea that it makes sense to do it should make you stop and think about where the market is heading.

Quick visit: St. Johns Parish Nursery

Painting nearly complete within St. John's Parish nursery space under renovation. Intern Architect Harrison Wallace and I made a quick visit to the St. John's Parish Church on our way back in from some meetings on Kiawah. The nursery renovation that we designed for the first level of St. John's LaRoche Building is moving along nicely. Most of the painting has been completed and the new flooring finishes have been installed. We expect some of the cabinetry to be delivered and installed today to allow the plumbing to be completed.  Early next week, the balance of the cabinetry will be installed. This will be the signature element of the design, finished in a variety of warm colors ranging from yellow to deep burgundy, will serve as plentiful storage for toys and game storage as well dividers for the interior space into 3 distinct play areas. The idea is that one or two parents can monitor the whole nursery visually while keeping children separated when appropriate. We're glad to be working with Hostetler Custom Cabinetry in the production of the all of the casework. Branks General Contractors is handling the renovation.

Space divider cabinetry detail. Copyright Tyler A. Smyth Architect, LLC 2013

The new entry door will be protected by a porch roof with flanking integrated benches.

Closing in on Rutledge Renovation: Before and After photos

Its a classic "before and after" post, folks.  So glad to see this old Hampton Park girl in out neighborhood putting herself back together so nicely.  Excellent work by our friends at Yarrum with redeveloping this residence n a way that makes sense for this historic building while suiting 2013 tastes. We're closing in on completion of this renovation. Though not finished, you can see how far 638 Rutledge has come so far. 628 Rutledge rear elevation, before

638 Rutledge rear elevation, renovation in progress. The rear addition has reverted to what we believe its original was: a porch.

Original living room, with dining room beyond door

The original fireplace, restored and modified to be functional, serves as divider of living room from dining room (and kitchen), beyond.

638 Rutledge: the original stair hall was chopped to accommodate a separate entry to the second level.

638 Rutledge, original stair and hall restored, with some additional storage beneath.

638 Rutledge: we found the rear addition with the floor level dropped 3" from the first floor level: a clue that it was originally a porch, later enclosed.

Rear addition reconverted to a porch, now screened, with original collar ties exposed.

638 Rutledge: larger of two front bedrooms at second level.

Larger of two front bedrooms, after

Second floor room, used as rear entry to second level apartment.

Master closet, which will be furnished for clothes storage along wall to right.

Kitchen, before

Side view of new kitchen, with easily accessible office nook to the left. Yarrum did a great job with the custom built cabinetry for the kitchen.

Existing front porch, with concrete slab that sloped slightly toward the house.

It was necessary to completely rebuild both levels of porches from the foundation up to the roof structure and tern metal roofing, which was refurbished.

I came up short with some of the "before" photos.  Below are a few additional images of the current condition of 638 Rutledge, which is nearing completion.

Restored original window, with original weight and chain mechanisms restored and new bronze weatherstripping installed for draft-stopping.

The original clawfoot tub had been restored, with the enamel made to look original without looking new. This will be installed in the guest bath at the second level.

Master shower, with new tile wrapping original kitchen chimney, now forming the side to a new bench seat.

Avondale Residence Kitchen

Kitchen in Avondale Residence, cabinetry by K&K Custom Cabinets Robert Paige of K&K Custom Cabinets commissioned some photography at the cottage that we designed in Charleston's Avondale neighborhood.  He sent some photos along earlier this week, and we were happy with the results.  Robert did a great job with the full-inset cabinetry that was designed for this kitchen.

Avondale kitchen; the windows were designed to register with other windows at the top and to have the countertop run in continuously at the sill. Photo: Wm. Quarles

The kitchen was design to be the center of the house as an acknowledgement of of this space as the heart of the modern home. It has direct visual access to the living room, which engages the kitchen through a bar with seating for five. We kept the countertop at one level, which I think contributes a great deal to the visual fluidity of the space.

The opposite side of kitchen features three windows for access to views of the gardens and pool in the back yard. The windows were designed and positioned to register with other windows at the top and to have the countertop run in continuously at the sill.  The framers initially out-thought themselves in raising the windows up by three inches, only to later need to re-frame the openings and move them back down to the intended height.  This is the type of thing that we can pick up in performing construction observation services as the architect.

An appliance garage to the right of the refrigerator comes down to the countertop. Photo: Wm. Quarles

36" Wolf range and Sharp microwave drawer provide the cooking capacity for the kitchen. Photo: Wm. Quarles